NOTRE DAME — If you blinked, you might have missed Cam McDaniel.
Yet even in brief bursts, Chuck Martin liked what he saw.
McDaniel hopes to turn his “sample size’’ window of opportunity in 2012 into a full-time economy package of playing time in Notre Dame’s backfield.
“Cam’s had a lot more opportunities. Cam is really becoming everything we thought (he’d be). He showed glimpses,” said Martin, the offensive coordinator for the Irish. “He didn’t get a lot of opportunities (last year), but when he went out there he proved he was tough to tackle, he proved he was a north-south guy, he proved he was tough.
“It was a small sample size but you think, hey, when we come out in real games, he was an effective runner,” Martin added. “And we’ve see more of that this spring. And he’s improved his versatility.
Spring rosters list McDaniel, a Coppell, Texas, native, at 5-10 and 199 sturdy pounds. The junior knows he has big shoes to fill and competition with George Atkinson III and Amir Carlisle has been and will be lively.
When the young running backs hit the field Saturday, April 20, at the annual Blue-Gold scrimmage, McDaniel knows carrying the ball and catching passes are sure to be pressure points in the ND offensive scheme.
“I’m taking advantage of all the opportunities I get. In our offense, the running back has to have the ability to play the slot receiver at any time,’’ said McDaniel, who learned under Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood last season. “All of us have been out there in that slot position. We’re all going to need our opportunities, finding our niche in the offense.”
“Going out in the slot is something I’ve personally been used to.”
Crisp routes and sure hands will be needed even more this season with the emergence of quarterback Everett Golson. Head coach Brian Kelly said this week that there are more tools in the Irish offensive toolbox they want to see more and more of them heading into the fall.
A steady stable of backs is a must.
“When we came out of last season thinking they were a little limited in the passing game,” said Martin, who’ll do the bulk of the play-calling this fall. “Now we think they just needed a little more work on it. Maybe a little bit belief in their own heads that they can do those jobs. So they’re definitely more versatile than they were a year ago.”
In order to become a better and every-down back, McDaniel said he took the advice of longtime friend Jackson Shipley, a University of Texas wideout, who told the ND back to carry a football with him everywhere he went each day.
“He’s like the ‘Pistol Pete (Maravich)’ of football,’’ said McDaniel, noting the NBA Hall of Famer who grew carrying a basketball every day. “That’s how (Shipley) was with football and he got me doing the same thing. That’s something that definitely been conditioned with me. You can never catch too many balls.”
And you can never learn enough from veterans like Riddick, who has moved on from the program.
Riddick molded himself into a reliable — and consistent — college football running back and wide receiver package.
McDaniel says he admired Riddick’s talent and versatility and took mental notes of his dedication.
“Theo was an incredible athlete. I only hope to bring what someone like that can bring to the table,’’ the junior said. “He was a smart football player, always coaching the younger guys. He was just a savvy football player.
“He knew the playbook very well and that’s why we were able to use him on different occasions because he knew our offense and he had the experience at both wide receiver and running back.
“You can always learn from somebody like that.”